October 25, 2016

Five-point lesson: How RSS, BJP can make English disappear from India (Sushil Aaron)

Hindustan Times

Five-point lesson: How RSS, BJP can make English disappear from India

Sushil Aaron | Updated: Oct 25, 2016 12:49 IST

The RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas wants a new education policy to prioritise Indian languages and urges that IITs and IIMs must immediately introduce education in the vernaculars. (HT file)

An influential educational lobby group wants English out of educational institutions. Total fidelity to Indian languages is capable of reshaping frameworks of thought and transforming India. All patriots must support the project. Here’s how it should be done.

The RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas (SSUN) has told the ministry of human resource development (MHRD) that the English language should gradually be removed as a medium of instruction at all levels of education in India, both in public and private institutions. According to the Indian Express , the SSUN wants the new education policy to prioritise Indian languages and urges that IITs and IIMs must immediately introduce education in the vernaculars.

The organisation also says that foreign languages should not be offered as an alternative to any Indian language and that the University Grants Commission must only sponsor research work that fulfils “national requirements”. Any references that insult Indian culture, tradition, sects, thoughts and eminent personalities must forthwith be expunged from all textbooks.

This is a grand intellectual enterprise designed to close India off from foreign influences. The idea behind removing all references that insult our culture is that students can from now on, without being challenged, be told that plastic surgery and genetic science both existed in ancient India. We can accept as truth the view that our venerable scientists discovered the Pythagoras theorem but that “we very gracefully allowed the Greeks to take the credit”, as minister for science and technology Harsh Vardhan once told us . India also knew “beej ganit” long before the Arabs but we “very selflessly allowed it to be called algebra”. Similarly, students can be told to read ancient Sanskrit texts to build indigenous aircraft as Captain Anand Bodas, a retired principal of a pilot training centre, told the Indian Science Congress in 2015.

The idea to get rid of English is particularly revolutionary, since it stems from the right assumption that blocking foreign languages is to deny or curtail access to other knowledge systems, their distinctive possibilities of meaning and their technical repertoire. Culture minister Mahesh Sharma has already promised to purge India of western influences and once foreign languages are blocked, total fidelity to Indian languages (and content) can potentially reshape our frameworks of thought. If this is the audacious plan then there really is no moment to lose.

But the RSS-affiliate’s ambition in this regard is, unfortunately, limited and disappointing. When the idea is to totally takeover the Indian mind, why start only with schools? Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s tenure as Prime Minister was, mind you, a wasted opportunity for the RSS’ cultural agenda. If we focus mainly on schools now it could be 15-20 years before we see a true vernacular restoration in the country. Why not adopt a more radical approach with an India-wide intervention across sectors, where all patriotic Indians can contribute to the cause of the disappearance of the English language?

The RSS must, to that end, press the Narendra Modi government to try these five ideas:

First, the revolution must begin at home, by example. The RSS should ensure that all BJP politicians, from the village level to the Union Cabinet, sign a pledge that they will enrol their four-year old children and grandchildren in only Hindi-medium or regional language institutions. It is not fair to ask the others without first having a go yourself, innit? Children of BJP leaders who are already enrolled in English-medium institutions must come up to speed with Hindi in a couple of years and switch schools or and those keen on the sciences should try and enrol in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Hindi Vishwavidyalaya in Bhopal which offers engineering courses exclusively in Hindi but currently has all or almost all seats vacant, as there are few takers for the degree .
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Two, the real trick is to quickly end the Indians’ fascination with English – a surgical strike on the language so to speak since that’s the new language for everything from Pakistan to black money. Since we are very good at banning films, books and plays we don’t like, why not ban students from taking the TOEFL, SAT, GRE, GMAT and IELTS as these tests are mainly about getting Indians to leave the country and study more English in foreign universities. Imagine the gall of Western civilisation to make us learn their English language and then test our proficiency in it. Can there be a greater illustration of our (daily) cultural subjugation and humiliation? How dare we allow the imagination of our youth to be entirely dominated by this language in the process of training for it? All revolutions begin with the ruthless excision of elites. Stop those trying to escape the country; the rest will follow.

This is a particularly auspicious moment to try this move. Since we are now habitually testing the patriotism of fellow Indians, it is now time to call all non-resident Indians home and convince them that making a living through the use of English in the English-speaking world is total haram. The ones really needing shuddikaran are those who are yet to come back to India. The Prime Minister has already called on the diaspora to come back and avail of new opportunities in India, so this would be a good time to honour him.

And in the spirit of testing patriotism of others and figuring out how big the problem is, the government of India should do an extensive social audit and have a national register of all the politicians, industrialists, bureaucrats, and film stars etc who have their children studying abroad in foreign universities. And they must all be volunteered by their parents to atone for the error of their English-speaking vocations and return to the vernacularised treasure trove that is India. Not only that, all those with children studying abroad must be immediately disqualified from being given a Padma or any national award. Surely, having a child abroad studying in a Western university is the cultural equivalent of nurturing a sleeper cell that will eventually harm India.

Four, the role of the media in developing new discourses and initiating cultural change. All TV programming during the day should here on be in Hindi or in regional languages. English content will be provided 11pm onward alongside other adult material. Some nationalist English news anchors will unfortunately have to move to the 11pm slot or switch to Hindi but either way it will be worth the effort for transforming India.

So there you have it: If all school-going children of BJP leaders study exclusively in Hindi or regional languages, if middle-class children are prevented from taking entrances tests in English to go abroad, if there are sanctions for elites who send children to English-medium institutions here or in foreign countries and if vernacular programming dominates on TV, India’s language revolution could be just years away. This approach, based on paranoia about English, is a lot easier for governments rather than collaborating with (liberal) academics in cultural projects aimed at increasing the use of vernaculars.

One other matter remains. Societies usually frame laws and policies that favour the powerful at the expense of the marginalised. The prescriptions for the former usually differ from those for the latter. A politician like Mulayam Singh Yadav, for example, will recommend Hindi to his constituents but send his son Akhilesh to study environmental engineering in Australia. The situation can now fortunately be flipped. Once the Indian middle class and elites begin to embrace and discover the exclusive joys of Hindi and other vernaculars, marginalised groups like Dalits, Muslims, tribals and women should be encouraged to learn English and persist with that language so that they have zero professional prospects in the future. In other words, marginalised Indians should stick to English and live with the indignity of being influenced by the world, not just India.

So go for it then, MHRD. Ignore the Chinese who are educating millions in English to try and dominate the world. Save our souls from that very language instead.

(The views expressed are personal. The author tweets at @SushilAaron)